St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, repeats Jesus’ admonition, “love one another.” He tells us that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” When we truly act in love for our brothers and sisters, we are doing all that we can to bring about good for them and not evil, and this is the reason for the law – to teach us to do good and avoid evil.
We know that God is love. Every act that he does is an act of love. He cannot do other than love. We only know this wonderful truth because the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became incarnate in Jesus Christ to show us what love really is. Love himself walked among us as a man, a real Presence in the world, eating and drinking, speaking and listening, laughing and crying, teaching and healing, and ultimately suffering, dying and rising to reconcile the world to the Father. This is how we know the depth of God’s love – because he showed it to us in Christ. Those who encountered Jesus during his earthly ministry were able to experience divine love directly.
But how do we, who are so far removed from that time, experience this same love? Certainly, there are many ways in which God gives us experiences of his love for us. But one very important way is by calling the followers of Jesus in every age to continue his ministry. This dimension of God’s plan is expressed in today’s Gospel Acclamation: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” God is now entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. That is to say, he is calling us to continue giving the world a real experience of his love. Each of us has been inspired and touched by others who have allowed the love of Christ to shine forth from within themselves. Now we are called to love in such a way that others can know the love of Christ from their experience of how we love them.
The first reading and the Gospel give us further insight into what it means for us to love our brothers and sisters. We tend to think too much in terms of what we do. If we do good for someone, we recognize that as love, whereas if we harm someone, even in a small matter, we rightly repent our failure to love. Today, however, we are being prompted to examine the way we fail to love by what we do not do – our sins of omission.
In the first reading, God explicitly tells Ezekiel that he has made him a “watchman.” The prophet is to listen for the voice of the Lord in order to hear when God warns his people that they are going the wrong way and risking destruction. God knows that most of the people are not listening for his voice, and so he charges Ezekiel to carry his word to them. If Ezekiel does not do it, the people will suffer for their own sins, but God will hold Ezekiel responsible as well. In the Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a similar instruction. If a brother sins against one of them, the disciple must take steps to tell the one who wronged him, and attempt to bring about a reconciliation.
Of course, we must always exercise prudence to know how and when to speak to someone who has sinned against us, or who we think is living contrary to God’s ways. It is not our mission to confront everyone who we think is sinning. But too often we err in the other direction; we confront no one. We fail by not doing what we should to deal with difficult issues. We find it easier not to bring up real hurts and offenses with those around us. We might think we are being loving by “letting it go.” But there are times when the loving thing to do is to speak the hard word to a brother or sister, and take the difficult steps to try to bring about a reconciliation. Like Ezekiel, we should be listening for the voice of the Lord prompting us to help our brothers and sisters by speaking the truth they need to hear. The Psalm urges us not to harden our hearts against the voice of the Lord.
And so the readings today ask us to examine our lives to see if we have been failing to love by not risking a loving confrontation with a brother or sister. God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. He does not say it will always be easy, nor does he tell us it will always be well-received. But it is our call as followers of the One who suffered and died to bring about our reconciliation with the Father.
How have I experienced God’s love for me? As I examine my conscience, how have I failed to love by what I do or not do? Do I find it difficult to speak the truth to another to bring about reconciliation?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 7. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.